I am unashamed to say, I adore the Eurovision Song Contest. From way back when I was a kid and used to listen in bed to it on my radio, to my adult years watching it on TV, I have only missed a handful of shows over the past 40*cough* years.
Now that Eurovision 2013 has come and gone (number 58 for all you aficionados, so only 2 more years to the Really Big Party Eurovision - can you imagine it!) the inevitable introspective naval gazing has begun in the British media. Oh why do we do so badly, they opine. Last week everyone seemed relatively confident that good old Bonnie Tyler would "do well" and some were even sticking their necks out that she might .... well, come in the top 3 at least.
But no. Bonnie managed what is now being described as a "credible" 19th place with 23 points. I think the media just don't want to rub salt in the wound. The top 3 acts all got over 200 points, and Bonnie came in behind the Armenian entry which was written by Black Sabbath's Tony Iomi. That in itself should tell you something about why the UK hasn't won since we borrowed an American called Katrina back in 1997.
While I wasn't a huge fan of Denmark's winning entry, I can see why it won. The staging took you straight to Les Miserables - one of the biggest films out in the past year, and a smash hit musical, not to mention a classic novel written by Frenchman, Victor Hugo. Add a young blonde girl with a passable voice and a catchy repetitive chorus and Bob's your mother's brother.
Azerbaijan's second place was courtesy of an attractive young chap singing a well-written song (in English, as were many of the higher-placed songs, so the UK can hardly complain that no one understood our lyrics), with interesting staging of a "shadow" man in a glass box and a girl in a red dress. Third place Ukraine I personally thought had a weak song, but they did employ a gimmick of having the female singer carried in by a 7 and a half foot tall guy dressed as an ogre. I have no idea what that had to do with the song, but it seemed to do the trick!
My personal favourite this year, Malta's entry, did really well, and the Norwegian song has been growing on me all week - so much so that I've added it to my Spotify playlist today. My daughter loved the Greek entry, a ska number called "Alcohol Is Free" by a group of guys wearing black kilts, who also finished inside the top 10. That's the beauty of Eurovision.
So, why didn't the UK win? Simple, we don't take it seriously enough. We insist on wheeling out either spoof acts created solely for Eurovision, or has-beens (even nice ones like Bonnie and Blue), with songs that may well be popular with Radio 2 listeners, but do not hit the button with the rest of Europe. The UK really does have some of the most tallented musicians in the world, the best song-writers and the biggest-selling artists winning awards all around the globe and racking up platinum after platinum record sales. But if we want to win Eurovision, we have to stop looking down out noses at it and just sending a token entry to the slaughter.
Look at Hungary's and Malta's entries this year: 2 simple, low key, songs with young male singers who you'd be happy to see any night of the week down at your local pub Open Mike night. Swap either for Ed Sheeran, and we'd have been in the top 10 too. If we need a female singer to belt out a power ballad, look no further than Adele or even Florence West from Florence and the Machine. Hell, swap the Danish girl for Diana Vickers from X Factor and we'd have probably done better than we did last night. Let any of them write their own song, and it could be United Kingdom 12 points all the way.
The political voting was reduced last night, mainly due to some of the usual culprits not getting through the semi-finals. Austria didn't even give Germany 12 points and I can't remember the last time that happened. It's really not because the rest of Europe don't like us: they just don't like what we send to Eurovision. And frankly, neither do we.
The only way for the UK to do better next year is for someone to take a good look at what is popular around Europe in their respective Top 40 charts in around September this year. Then ask a Brit who happens to be doing similar stuff rather well to give it a go. Release the song at the end of March right across Europe so that everyone has already heard it by the time May arrives. Sit back and cross fingers.
If we really do want to do well, that is.